Smoke gets in your eyes
As part of National Eye Health Week optometrists today warned that the relationship between smoking and sight loss is as strong as the link between smoking and lung cancer and urged smokers take up the Stoptober challenge.
According to research published in the British Medical Journal as many as one in five cases of Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), the UK’s leading cause of blindness, are caused by tobacco consumption. This means smoking is currently responsible for 120,000 cases of AMD.
David Cartwright, chair of National Eye Health Week explains: “Despite there being a stronger link between AMD and smoking, than lung cancer and smoking Britain’s ten million smokers are largely unaware of the dangers. Fewer than 10% realise smoking can affect their eye health. This compares to 92% associating smoking with lung cancer and 87% identifying a link between smoking and the risk of heart disease.
Omar Hassan Head of Professional Services at Vision Express continues: “Smokers are three times more likely to suffer AMD than non-smokers and are likely to suffer from the condition earlier than non- smokers.
The average age for a non- smoker to develop AMD is 74.4 years of age. This is five years later than smokers whose average age is 69.2 years. Smokers are also likely to experience a more rapid progression of AMD and poorer treatment outcomes.”
Tobacco smoke is composed of as many as 4,000 active compounds, which can damage the delicate surface and the internal structure of the eye.
Smokers are also at increased risk of other eye conditions such as nuclear cataracts; thyroid eye disease; dry eye and poor colour vision.
David Cartwright comments: “Having regular sight tests, once every two years unless advised otherwise by your optometrist, is vital for everyone but never more so than for smokers. Early detection of conditions such as AMD is essential to prevent avoidable
Eye health maps produced by National Eye Heath Week in conjunction with Vision Express have revealed hotspots of the UK where levels of smoking are high and uptake of sight tests are low leaving residents at increased risk of sight loss.
These hotspots include: The London Boroughs of Newham and Tower Hamlets, Birmingham, Knowsley, Cwm Taf, South Tynside, Corby, Bradford and Hull.
Omar Hassan concludes: “However there is some good news – if a patient stops smoking the risk of losing sight decreases over time so the sooner they stop the better for their vision. If you smoke why not try quitting during Stoptober. It could just save your sight.”
For more information about smoking and sight loss visit: http://www.visionmatters.org.uk/downloads/smoking-leaflet-2014.pdf
 British Medical Journal, Vol. 328, S. 537
 Calculated using Macular Society AMD prevalence data
Perceptions of blindness related to smoking: a hospital- based cross-sectional study, G Bidwell et al.
Published : 28 September 2014
The National Eye Health Week team has launched ‘Eye Ball' – a fun and interactive way to promote the importance of regular sight tests and highlight the link between vision and sporting performance.
Playing “Eye Ball” is easy...
Encourage your favourite sports star to keep their eye on the ball by ‘throwing’ (tweeting) the following…
Pls RT Research shows sporting performance is directly linked to vision. Are your eyes fit to play? #BookaSightTest #NEHW14
The sports star then ‘throws' (retweets) the advice to their followers.
Playing tip: don’t forget to add the sports star’s twitter handle to the beginning of the tweet
For example @TigerWoods Research shows sporting performance is directly linked to vision. Are your eyes fit to play? #BookaSightTest Pls RT #NEHW14
Published : 25 September 2014
With the Autumn sun posing an increased risk to the eyes, National Eye Health Week (NEHW) and Boots Opticians have launched a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of unprotected sun exposure and help prevent future, avoidable, sight loss.
As the sun crossed the celestial equator on the Autumn equinox (23 September 2014 02:29 GMT) the highest point on its trajectory reduced to just 40-degrees. David Cartwright, chair of NEHW explains how this impacts on our eyes: “When the sun is high in the sky our brow bone acts like a built in sun shade and prevents damaging UV light entering the eye. When the sun is low in the sky during Autumn months the total amount of UV radiation your eyes are exposed to dramatically increases.”
Cumulative UV exposure has been found to promote the onset of cataracts and has been implicated in the development of a range of other eye conditions including photokeratitis, pterygium and macular degeneration – the UK’s leading cause of blindness.
David continues: “One simple way you can tell if your eyes are in danger of UV damage is to look at your shadow. If your shadow is taller than you, you should protect your eyes using a hat, sunglasses or UV protective lenses.”
As part of a wider public health initiative to prevent future avoidable sight loss and highlight the year-round risk of eye damage caused by UV radiation, NEHW has teamed up with Boots Opticians to launch Sunbeams.
The Sunbeams campaign will encourage schools to include sun safety within their child protection policies. It will also provide teachers with a range of Key Stage 1 learning resources which highlight ten simple strategies for staying safe in the sun and explain how doing things such as having regular sight tests and eating colourful fruit and vegetables can keep your eyes and vision healthy.
Ben Fletcher, Managing Director, Boots Opticians said: “Everyday protection from UV is vital, especially for children, who are more susceptible to eye damage. Increasingly evidence shows the eye health risk of UV exposure - even on a cloudy day. We also know that most of our exposure to harmful UV happens before the age of 18 so it’s important to get eyes checked regularly. We hope our Sunbeam characters Ellen and Ravi will encourage kids and parents to take care of young eyes to minimise the risk of future sight loss.”
Children’s doctor and TV medic Dr Ranj is supporting the Sunbeams campaign. To view Dr Ranj’s vlog and for further information about the public health initiative plus children’s games and a host of fun activities visit www.visionmatters.org.uk/sunbeams
Sunbeams’ Ten Simple Strategies for staying safe in the sun
1. Protect your eyes whenever the UV Index rises to three or more5 – even on a cloudy day. (Over 90% of UV can transmit through the clouds).
For comfort you may also wish to wear eye protection on bright days when the UV Index is below three.
2. Wear sunglasses with a CE; UV 400 or BS standard BSEN1836 : 2005 mark – this ensures they provide adequate UV protection.
3. Never wear toy sunglasses. These offer little UV protection and can actually cause more damage because the tinted lenses dilate the pupil allowing more UV light to enter the eye.
4. If you wear spectacles, check your lenses provide UV protection.
5. Make sure your eyes and area around your eyes is fully covered. Large lenses and wrap-around styles provide the greatest protection.
6. Wear a hat, cap or visor for added protection
7. Sit or play in the shade
8. Stay out of the sun between 12pm and 3pm when the sun’s rays are strongest. Up to 50% of the total daily UV is emitted between these times!6
9. Never look directly at the sun, this can permanently scar the retina.
10. Remember the shadow rule…
… If your shadow is taller than you are your eyes are at greatest risk from UV exposure, as your brow bone no longer offers natural protection.
 Linetsky M, Raghavan CT et al. "UVA light-excited kynurenines oxidize ascorbate and modify lens proteins through the formation of advanced glycation end products: implications for human lens aging and cataract formation." Journal of Biological Chemistry, May 2014. DOI: 10.1074/jbc.M114.554410
 UV and the eye, review of the latest research, Professor James Wolffsohn, Aston University, 2012
 More than 50% of sight loss is avoidable (Future Sight Loss Report, Access Economics, 2009)
 The Vision Centre, Los Angles Children’s Hospital
Diffey BL and Larko O, Clinical climatology (1984)
Published : 24 September 2014
Seventy five per cent of older people who suffer a fall as a result of poor vision had a visual impairment that was easily correctable*. So don’t be a fall guy – make sure you have regular eye examinations.
Everyone aged 60+ is entitled to FREE sight tests paid for by the NHS. You may also be entitled to a voucher towards any vision correction required. Ask your optometrist for details or visit http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/am-i-entitled-to-an-nhs-optical-voucher.aspx for more information.
* Jack CI, et al. Gerontology.
Published : 24 September 2014
Dr Hilary Jones highlighted the importance of regular sight tests on his health round-up on ITV's Lorraine programme on 24 September.
Published : 24 September 2014
As time passes and our vision changes, the risk of developing a sight threatening eye condition increases and it’s women who are at the greater risk. In fact, according to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) nearly two thirds of people living with sight loss are women.
A number of factors including a longer life expectancy, hormonal changes and imbalances and an increased prevalence of obesity, put women at increased risk of poor eye health.
The best advice for looking after your eyes and eyesight is to have regular sight tests, once every two years unless advised otherwise by your optometrist, as early diagnosis of common eye conditions such as those described below is vital:
Presbyopia is a condition that affects everyone to some degree as a stiffening of the eye’s crystalline lens occurs as part of the natural ageing process.
It seems that for women from 40years onwards and men from 45years, give or take, they start to need more light, longer arms or larger print to read comfortably. Even the computer or laptop screen goes out of focus when they’re tired and it is not uncommon for people to complain of headaches after prolonged close-work.
Management includes magnifying reading glasses, prescription spectacles or contact lenses or a new type of lens implant surgery, for those who need cataract surgery. Your optometrist will be able explain these options for you.
Dry eye is the most common cause of eye irritation is people aged 65+. Women are most likely to be affected by the condition, which is often prevalent during the menopause when fluctuations in hormone levels affect ocular tissue and the composition of your tears.
A study conducted by the Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR) found 61% of peri-menopausal and menopausal women suffer from evaporative dry eye.
Some research has suggested that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may help alleviate symptoms of dry eye, however, the SWHR research – which studied 25,665 women – found women using HRT (especially oestrogen only) were at increased risk of suffering from the condition.
If you suffer symptoms of dry eye – grittiness, tearing or a feeling that there is something in your eye – speak to your optometrist or pharmacist. They will be happy to advise you on treatment options. These may include dietary changes, eyelid and eyelash hygiene, lubricating eye drops or punctum plugs.
Cataracts. The prevalence of cataracts (clouding of the lens in the eye) is higher in postmenopausal women than in men of the same age.
Symptoms of cataract include blurred vision, ghosting, glare problems, impaired colour perception and poor sight that is not corrected with spectacles or contact lenses.
An estimated that 2.4 million people aged 65 plus in England and Wales have a visually impairing cataract in one or both eyes. In most cases, cataracts can be treated very simply with routine surgery as a day-patient.
Glaucoma. Recent research suggests that early loss of oestrogen, ie women who go into an early menopause, can be associated with an increased risk of development of Primary Open Angle Glaucoma in women who are susceptible.
Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye conditions, which affect the optic nerve and lead to the progressive loss of your peripheral vision. If left untreated glaucoma can lead to total loss of sight.
Patients with glaucoma are often unaware that there are any problems with their vision as there are no symptoms until it is well down the line - the central vision tends to be affected in advanced glaucoma.
A regular eye exam will pick up the signs long before we notice the symptoms and if detected early, glaucoma can usually be managed with eye drops, although sometimes a minor operation is needed. Regular monitoring is required once the condition is diagnosed.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – Britain’s leading cause of blindness –usually develops in people aged 50+ and is more common in women than men.
The macular is the part of our eye responsible for what we’re looking at and there are two main types of macular degeneration:
Dry AMD, the most common form, affects around 90% of patients and develops gradually.
Wet AMD affects just 10% of patients. This is a more aggressive form of the condition and can have a significant impact on your vision in a matter of days. It needs to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.
AMD is rarely painful; however, patients will begin to notice shadowy areas in their central vision where the retinal cells have been damaged.
Sufferers may also experience blurred, fuzzy or distorted vision. Straight lines may become crooked or wavy and objects can appear an unusual size or shape.
Studies have shown that repeated exposure to UV light can damage the central part of the retina and contribute to the development of AMD. It's therefore important to protect your eyes from the sun by wearing sunglasses or UV protective lenses whenever the UV Index rises to 3 or more.
Remember, a child’s eyes absorb up to half their lifetime exposure by the time they are 18yrs, so protecting them when they’re young will help to avoid problems later on.
Nutrition plays a vital role in preserving your overall eye health. Research has shown that eating just one portion of fish a week may reduce your risk of developing AMD by up to 40%.
Quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight are also essential to help maintain good eye health.
Published : 23 September 2014
Take a look at the eye health supplement published in today's (22 September) Guardian newspaper for advice and information on keeping your eyes and vision healthy. Click here to download the supplement
Published : 22 September 2014
• 86% of Brits admit to having problems with their eyes
• 20 million fail to have regular sight tests
• 7% of employees have taken time off work because of poor eye health
• 2,500 GP consultations a day for blepharitis
Official figures released to mark the start of National Eye Health Week reveal eighty six percent of Brits admit to experiencing problems with their eyesight. Yet, according to the Eyecare Trust, 20 Million of us fail to have regular sight tests.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the main reason why so many of us put off having a sight test is the fear of how much it’s going to cost. This, despite the fact that more than 30 million people in the UK are entitled to FREE sight tests, paid for by the NHS. The most needy are also entitled to NHS vouchers towards the cost of any eyewear that may be required. Many others are also entitled to eyecare paid for by their employer.
Among the more surprising findings is the fact that half (50%) of all parents in the UK do not take their children for regular sight tests.
Top eye health complaints include blurred vision, dry irritated eyes, eyestrain and eye infections.
One common eye infection is blepharitis – an inflammatory condition associated with itchiness, redness, flaking, and crusting of the eyelids. This condition alone accounts for an estimated 2,500 GP consultations a day – despite the fact that home remedies (such as warm compresses) are often just as effective as prescription medication in relieving symptoms.
According to research commissioned by not for profit health insurer, Westfield Health, seven percent of employees have recently taken time off work due to poor eye health with respondents citing eye infections as the most frequent cause for being absent from the work place.
Commenting on the findings David Cartwright, Chair of National Eye Health Week said: “Sight tests are essential health checks. Not only can they detect common eye conditions, such as glaucoma, before they cause irreversible vision loss, they can also uncover signs of general health problems, including diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol.
The worrying truth is that many of us only go to see our optometrist when we are aware something is wrong and sadly this can mean the damage is already done.”
Published : 22 September 2014
The eye health supplement published in The Times today (22 September) explains why everyone should have regular sight tests and highlights some of the simple things we can all do to keep our eyes and vision healthy. Click here to find out more Vision supplement - The Times
Published : 22 September 2014
National Eye Health Week has teamed up with not-for-profit health insurer Westfield Health to publish Vista, a 52-page consumer lifestyle magazine.
Vista is packed with essential eye health advice including features on the importance of regular sight tests, exclusive recipes, an interview with TV presenter Davina McCall, true life stories recounting people’s experiences of living with eye disease, over the counter remedies for common eye conditions, make-up and style advice plus a round-up of the latest eye health news, quizzes and more.
David Cartwright Chair of National Eye Health Week comments: “Vista is a really exciting new concept in eye health promotion. By presenting important health messages in a stylish magazine format we hope to encourage more people to have regular sight tests and inspire them to make healthier lifestyle choices that reduce the risk of future sight loss.”
Paul Shires Executive Director at Westfield Health adds: “This is a truly innovative approach to eye health promotion which we hope will inspire people to take better care of their vision. Following Vista’s lifestyle advice could not only help you see better, it could also help improve your overall health and wellbeing.”
Copies of Vista are being sent out in the National Eye Health Week supporter resource packs and will be distributed at official National Eye Health Week events taking place across the country between 22 and 28 September.
Click here to view a digital version of Vista
Published : 12 September 2014